Creatures Near and Far: Animals | Series Nonfiction

High-quality graphics and nonfiction elements in a series are what makes even popular subjects such as cats and dogs stand out. Read on to get to know your at-home and backyard animals better.

1604SMS-Animals-CreaturesThis season brings a mixed bag of topics with a number of strong possibilities for collections. Publishers continue to return to favorite topics with the ever popular cat and dog books. Bird books for young readers are getting more attention. Other familiar animals are being given fresh treatments that will keep kids engaged and entertained. Overall, this season’s selections offer strong visual appeal, making the most of stock photos while continuing to include more graphics and nonfiction elements. These trends extend the series’ appeal and value and provide plenty of teachable moments, something that librarians and students will appreciate.


Amstutz, Lisa J. American Crows. ISBN 9781491485118; ISBN 9781491485156.

––––. Blue Jays. ISBN 9781491485125; ISBN 9781491485163.

––––. Hummingbirds. ISBN 9781491485132; ISBN 9781491485170.

––––. Mourning Doves. ISBN 9781 491485149; ISBN 9781491485187.

ea vol: 24p. (Backyard Birds). further reading. glossary. index. maps. websites. Capstone. 2016. lib. ed. $19.49. pap. $6.95.

K-Gr 2 –This series covers basic information on birds common to North America. In three brief chapters, each book touches on appearance, diet, nesting preferences and components, social structure, and care of young. Bird sounds are described. The photos are clear and typically reflect the text well, although most are without captions. The images in Mourning Doves are especially well chosen, including one of a squab eating from its parent’s crop. The migration map in Hummingbirds doesn’t differentiate among the seasons (unlike the rest of the titles), because hummingbirds migrate individually, an important distinction unfortunately left out of the text. The three concluding “Critical Thinking” questions will help readers recall the text, but the minimal content will limit answers without further research. VERDICT Add these where there is demand.

Anthony, David. Bison. ISBN 9781 508142898; ISBN 9781508142881; ISBN 9781508142904.

Jeffries, Joyce. Caribou. ISBN 9781 508142911; ISBN 9781508142850; ISBN 9781508142973.

––––. Elk. ISBN 9781508142928; ISBN 9781508142980; ISBN 9781508142935.

Morgan, Elizabeth. Jaguar. ISBN 9781508143055; ISBN 9781508143031; ISBN 9781508143062.

Rogers, Amy. Moose. ISBN 9781 508143017; ISBN 9781508142966; ISBN 9781508143024.

Stanley, Joseph. Grizzly Bear. ISBN 9781508142997; ISBN 9781508142942; ISBN 9781508143000.

ea vol: 24p. (North America’s Biggest Beasts). chart. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. PowerKids. 2016. lib. ed. $23.60. pap. $8.25. ebk. $23.60.

Gr 3-5 –From paws to antlers, big is the operative word in this highly visual series. Each animal (adult and young) is sized by height, weight, and how fast it can run. The text goes on to examine diet, social behaviors, and reproduction. The impact of human interference on the lifestyle and populations of each animal is explained in a simple, direct way. Readers can decide if they are moved or unmoved by this information, although the importance of obeying hunting and conservation laws is strongly underlined. The photos are scenic and correspond to the text. Vocabulary words are bolded throughout. A “Signs” section describes how to identify if the topic animal was recently in the area, a valuable addition for students who might live closer than they think to these great big creatures. VERDICT These familiar animals are favorites for many readers, and these selections will update collections nicely.

Avett, Harper. Watch Out for Alligators! ISBN 9781508142577; ISBN 9781508142751; ISBN 9781508142584.

Jobes, Cecily. Watch Out for Skunks! ISBN 9781508142690; ISBN 9781508142676; ISBN 9781508142805.

McAneney, Caitie. Watch Out for Mountain Lions! ISBN 9781508142782; ISBN 9781508142614; ISBN 9781508142799.

McFadden, Jesse. Watch Out for Rattlesnakes! ISBN 9781508142652; ISBN 9781508142638; ISBN 9781508142669.

McKinney, Devon. Watch Out for Wasps! ISBN 9781508142829; ISBN 9781508142706; ISBN 9781508142836.

McKinnon, Elaine. Watch Out for Coyotes! ISBN 9781508142768; ISBN 9781508142591; ISBN 9781508142775.

ea vol: 24p. (Wild Backyard Animals). glossary. index. photos. websites. PowerKids. 2016. lib. ed. $23.60. pap. $8.25. ebk. $23.60.

Gr 3-5 –These introductions to potentially dangerous animals emphasize safety and understanding. General information about each subject, including identification markers, diet, life cycle, and status in the ecosystem’s food chain, is covered. The authors make clear that the dangerous qualities of each species are a result of instinct rather than malicious desires. Human encroachment on habitats is the top cause in each title for recorded attacks on humans. With an emphasis on avoidance and safe tips for what to do in an encounter, these titles will help children feel secure despite the scary topic. The photos are clear and exemplify the text. Each title employs the same simple but accurate definition of the word ecosystem, though considering the reading level, a more complex exploration does seem necessary. VERDICT A good series to add if these creatures can be found in your area.

Bacon, Carly J. Cat Care: Nutrition, Exercise, Grooming, and More. ISBN 9781491483992.

Kaelberer, Angie Peterson. Favorite Cat Breeds: Persians, Abyssinians, Siamese, Sphynx, and All the Breeds In-Between. ISBN 9781491484029.

Rissman, Rebecca. Cat Shows: Competing for Top Prize. ISBN 9781491484012.

Webster, Maureen. Cat Speak: Revealing Answers to the Strangest Cat Behaviors. ISBN 9781491484005.

ea vol: 32p. (Cats Rule!). further reading. glossary. index. websites. Capstone. 2016. lib. ed. $20.49.

K-Gr 2 –This series goes beyond the basics to give young cat owners practical information about their pets. Each title contains common features, such as four chapters, a hands-on activity, and culminating critical thinking questions linked to the Common Core. Cat Speak provides a lot of material on cat behavior, even mentioning the role of genes in how instinct is developed. Favorite Cat Breeds details a brief and somewhat enlightening feline history. While the authors don’t mention domestication directly, they do note a difference (however slight) between when people kept cats around for their useful qualities and when cats were brought into the home as pets. Cat Shows includes some of the costs associated with entering a competition, and though these numbers are general and unsourced, they are a refreshing acknowledgement that pets come with a price. New words such as mutation and crepuscular are bold and defined on the page and in the glossary. VERDICT New and experienced cat owners will appreciate these helpful guides.

Bowman, Chris. Great Danes. ISBN 9781626173064; ISBN 9781681031316.

––––. Siberian Huskies. ISBN 9781626173088; ISBN 9781681031330.

Schuh, Mari. Boxers. ISBN 9781626173033; ISBN 9781681031286.

––––. Bulldogs. ISBN 9781626173040; ISBN 9781681031293.

––––. Chihuahuas. ISBN 9781626173057; ISBN 9781681031309.

––––. Rottweilers. ISBN 9781626173071; ISBN 9781681031323.

ea vol: 24p. (Awesome Dogs). chart. diag. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Bellwether. 2016. lib. ed. $22.95. ebk. $22.95.

K-Gr 2 –This series uses simple sentences to provide small bits of information on popular dog breeds. The beginning of each title is dedicated to describing common physical traits, with a brief background on where and when the breed originated (or, in some cases, may have originated). The language is always positive, with adjectives such as charming, loyal, happy, and calm. Life span, coat color and pattern, and qualities as a family pet are covered. The last section of each book includes a scale of trainability and the dog’s American Kennel Club classification. Bright backgrounds contrast well with the large type and brightly colored dog-centric photos. Most volumes conclude with photos of the dog with children and families. VERDICT Fine choices for popular sections in most libraries.

Brown, Domini. Egyptian Maus. ISBN 9781626173101; ISBN 9781681031354.

––––. Exotics. ISBN 9781626173118; ISBN 9781681031361.

––––. Orientals. ISBN 9781626173132; ISBN 9781681031385.

Leaf, Christina. Devon Rexes. ISBN 9781626173095; ISBN 9781681031347.

––––. Manx. ISBN 9781626173125; ISBN 9781681031378.

––––. Scottish Folds. ISBN 9781626173149; ISBN 9781681031392.

ea vol: 24p. (Cool Cats). chart. diag. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Bellwether. 2016. lib. ed. $22.95. ebk. $22.95.

K-Gr 2 –Employing a similar format as Bellwether’s “Awesome Dogs,” these simply told titles introduce a few different breeds of household cats. Each volume contains five short chapters covering each cat’s history, appearance, and characteristics. The vocabulary includes appropriate and advanced words such as affectionate, cobby, tortoiseshell, and muscular—many of which can be found in the glossary. The endearing photos reflect the text well as they depict the topic cat in a variety of poses and settings. Among the additional graphics are a map showing the animal’s country of origin and a photo chart of the breed’s many coat colors. VERDICT Young cat lovers will find these colorful offerings irresistible.

Camisa, Kathryn. Barn Owl. ISBN 9781943553273; ISBN 9781943553617.

Cantor, Rachel Anne. Beluga Whale. ISBN 9781627248518; ISBN 9781627249126.

Markovics, Joyce. Angora Rabbit. ISBN 9781627248471; ISBN 9781627249072.

––––. Hedgehog. ISBN 9781627248464; ISBN 9781627249096.

––––. Puffer Fish. ISBN 9781627248501; ISBN 9781627249102.

Oldfield, Dawn Bluemel. Tarsier. ISBN 9781943553280; ISBN 9781943553624.

Rudolph, Jessica. Gecko. ISBN 9781627248495; ISBN 9781627249089.

––––. Rockhopper Penguin. ISBN 9781627248488; ISBN 9781627249119.

ea vol: 24p. (Weird but Cute). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Bearport. 2016. lib. ed. $17.95. ebk. $27.95.

K-Gr 3 –This attractive set definitely leans more on the cute side than the weird. Each opening spread uses a variety of font styles to introduce the notable physical characteristics of the subject. Size, appearance, enemies, diet, and babies are covered. Angora, Gecko, and Tarsier make use of onomatopoeia. Overall the photos work well and include cut-outs, insets, and full-page images. A closing “More …” section gives three additional examples of animals with similar weird characteristics or other related species. The captioned photo glossaries occasionally struggle to illustrate complex verbs like grind (Angora), digest (Hedgehog), and poison (Pufferfish). VERDICT The variety of animals here makes this series a possibility for larger collections.

Clapper, Nikki Bruno. Saint Bernards. ISBN 9781491479773.

Morey, Allan. Bernese Mountain Dogs. ISBN 9781491479827.

––––. Great Danes. ISBN 9781491479780.

––––. Irish Wolfhounds. ISBN 9781491479810.

––––. Mastiffs. ISBN 9781491479797.

––––. Newfoundlands. ISBN 9781491479803.

ea vol: 24p. (Big Dogs). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. 2016. lib. ed. $19.49.

K-Gr 3 –This series is perfect for young readers looking to learn about big dog breeds. Each title begins by describing the dog’s physical traits and temperament and offering a little bit of breeding background. The last chapter is devoted to at-home care. Large, beautiful photos with every spread provide great images of the breed in repose or action. A closing “How Big Are They?” chart compares the topic dog’s height and weight to that of a typical baby elephant, a slightly odd but fun comparison. Two “Critical Thinking” questions linked to the Common Core are specific to each volume and call on simple recall and higher level skills. VERDICT These will be a hit in collections where there’s a demand for dog books.

Hansen, Grace. American Bison. ISBN 9781680801071; ISBN 9781680802191.

––––. Bald Eagles. ISBN 9781680801088; ISBN 9781680802207.

––––. Coyotes. ISBN 9781680801095; ISBN 9781680802214.

––––. Gray Wolves. ISBN 9781680801101; ISBN 9781680802221.

––––. Grizzly Bears. ISBN 9781680801118; ISBN 9781680802238.

––––. Moose. ISBN 9781680801125; ISBN 9781680802245.

ea vol: 24p. (Animals of North America). glossary. index. photos. websites. ABDO. 2016. lib. ed. $19.95. ebk. $32.95.

PreS-Gr 2 –In concise, matter-of-fact terms, the basics of each animal are introduced in three chapters covering physical characteristics, habitat, diet, and young. The author avoids the use of quantifiers, choosing instead to employ terms such as big, large, strong, and long. A “More Facts” section provides a small list of bite-size facts (for instance, moose eat pinecones as treats). Bright photos support the text and occasionally depict action scenes. The oversize format allows plenty of room for the single photo per spread. Some concepts not defined in the glossary, such as alpha pair (Gray Wolf), may need further adult explanation. VERDICT This is a strong series for classroom and individual use.

Harasymiw, Mark. A Bird Watcher’s Guide to Chickadees. ISBN 9781482439014; ISBN 9781482438796; ISBN 9781482439021.

Ponka, Katherine. A Bird Watcher’s Guide to Blue Jays. ISBN 9781482438383; ISBN 9781482438369; ISBN 9781482438390.

Rohan, Rebecca. A Bird Watcher’s Guide to Robins. ISBN 9781482439090; ISBN 9781482439076; ISBN 9781482439106.

Saxena, Shalini. A Bird Watcher’s Guide to Goldfinches. ISBN 9781482439052; ISBN 9781482439038; ISBN 9781482439069.

Shea, Therese. A Bird Watcher’s Guide to Cardinals. ISBN 9781482438420; ISBN 9781482438406; ISBN 9781482438437.

Vail, Grace. A Bird Watcher’s Guide to Sparrows. ISBN 9781482439137; ISBN 9781482439113; ISBN 9781482439144.

ea vol: 32p. (Backyard Bird Watchers). further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. Gareth Stevens. 2016. lib. ed. $25.25. pap. $10.50. ebk. $25.25.

Gr 2-5 –Relying on a journal entry format, this series is an accessible introduction to common birds and bird-watching. Topics covered are general physical and dietary basics plus habitat, calls, range maps, nests, and young. Bird-watching supply lists are included in Chickadees and Robins. Various activities, such as setting up bird feeders, are described in several titles. Readers will find a recipe for suet in Blue Jays, and Goldfinches mentions preferred backyard plants. The photos are bright and clear and mostly correspond directly to the text. VERDICT This series could provide just the right amount of motivation to fledgling bird-watchers.

Herrington, Lisa M. Amazing Mammals. ISBN 9780531226001.

––––. Freaky Fish. ISBN 9780531226018.

––––. Incredible Insects. ISBN 9780531226025.

––––. Remarkable Reptiles. ISBN 9780531226032.

ea vol: 32p. (Rookie Read-About Science: Strange Animals). glossary. photos. websites. Children’s Pr. 2016. lib. ed. $23.

K-Gr 2 –This series aims to introduce children to different animal groups by focusing on the more wild looking and recognizable species. Reptiles opens with a lizard showing off his frill, an image that is sure to rouse the curiosity of new readers. There is a balance between light text that touts wondrous abilities (“Geckos have superpowers!”) and more formal fact-driven text (“Tiny hairs on their stinky toes help them cling to things.”). Each title emphasizes basic abilities such as survival and hunting techniques, with a few bits about parenting in Mammals and diet in Insects. Captioned photos help identify and explain specific characteristics or abilities of the animals. Back matter includes a “Which Is Stranger?” matchup, “Top Five Facts,” “Record Holders,” and “Animal Crack-ups,” which leaves readers with two kid-friendly jokes. Pronunciation guides accompany larger vocabulary works throughout each volume. VERDICT Early readers will find the content intriguing, while adults will appreciate the controlled text and short sentences.

Macheske, Felicia. Awesome Arms. ISBN 9781634707183; ISBN 9781634707480; ISBN 9781634707633.

––––. Big and Blubbery. ISBN 9781634707190; ISBN 9781634707497; ISBN 9781634707640.

––––. Blue and Bumpy. ISBN 9781634707176; ISBN 9781634707473; ISBN 9781634707626.

––––. Bright and Beautiful. ISBN 9781634707213; ISBN 9781634707510; ISBN 9781634707664.

––––. Flying Flippers. ISBN 9781634707169; ISBN 9781634707466; ISBN 9781634707619.

––––. Hairy Hunter. ISBN 9781634707220; ISBN 9781634707527; ISBN 9781634707671.

––––. Lanky Legs. ISBN 9781634707206; ISBN 9781634707503; ISBN 9781634707657.

––––. Quick and Quiet. ISBN 9781634707152; ISBN 9781634707459; ISBN 9781634707602.

ea vol: 24p. (Guess What). glossary. index. photos. Cherry Lake. 2016. lib. ed. $19.95. pap. $8.95. ebk. $30.95.

PreS-Gr 2 –This series takes a follow-the-clues approach to help early readers learn to use species traits in order to confidently identify animals. The traits or “clues” start off vague (“I have more eyes than you”) and increasingly become more species specific (“I use silk to line my nest”). Each clue is paired with a photo that specifically corresponds to it (for instance, a close-up of a tarantula creating a nest). The final reveal comes at the end of each book, along with an “About” section that further defines some of the hints, occasionally using scientific terminology such as species, migrate, and nymph. VERDICT This series is sure to keep the interest of children.

Murray, Julie. Deer. ISBN 9781680801149; ISBN 9781680802269.

––––. Garter Snakes. ISBN 9781680801156; ISBN 9781680802276.

––––. Rabbits. ISBN 9781680801163; ISBN 9781680802283.

––––. Raccoons. ISBN 9781680801170; ISBN 9781680802290.

––––. Robins. ISBN 9781680801187; ISBN 9781680802306.

––––. Squirrels. ISBN 9781680801194; ISBN 9781680802313.

ea vol: 24p. (Everyday Animals). glossary. index. photos. websites. ABDO. 2016. lib. ed. $18.95. ebk. $31.95.

PreS-Gr 1 –These titles aim to help young children better identify a few common North American animals. The author assumes that readers have basic familiarity with these animals and so keeps the text simple and focused on basic traits or behaviors. The value of this series is in the clear, close-up photos of these alert, active, and happy-seeming animals. Children will be delighted by the fluffy rabbits, jumping squirrels, and raccoons caught in the act of searching a garbage can. Only Garter Snake contains a photo that could potentially turn away tender-hearted readers (the snake is depicted eating a frog). Back matter includes a “Features of a...” section that reinforces four key physical traits of the selected animal. VERDICT Fine additions where needed.

Schuh, Mari. Badgers. ISBN 9781620312865; ISBN 9781624963469.

––––. Bald Eagles. ISBN 9781620312872; ISBN 9781624963476.

––––. Chipmunks. ISBN 9781620312889; ISBN 9781624963483.

––––. Opossums. ISBN 9781620312896; ISBN 9781624963490.

––––. Porcupines. ISBN 9781620312902; ISBN 9781624963506.

––––. Skunks. ISBN 9781620312919; ISBN 9781624963513.

ea vol: 24p. (My First Animal Library). diag. glossary. index. photos. websites. Jump! 2016. lib. ed. $25.65. ebk. $17.95.

PreS-Gr 1 –These “day in the life” snapshots of wild animals are designed to entertain children while teaching basic animal traits. The content highlights key physical characteristics, behaviors, diets, and nesting spaces. Bald Eagles and Opossums, the only titles using feminine pronouns, also reference the species’ young. Chipmunks focuses on the fall season leading into winter, while Badgers and Opossums take place at night. Anthropomorphisms and exclamation points are used in every book, mostly to convey fear or happiness (for example, in Eagles, “Wow! A fish!…. Yum!”). The bright colors and clear photos are mostly well chosen, although the occasional use of obvious stock photos does detract from the text. For instance, in Skunks, a skunk is featured outdoors in a grassy area, but the threatening bobcat appears surrounded by white space, and the difference in setting is likely to confuse readers. VERDICT The short sentences and carefully selected vocabulary will please new readers.

Thomas, Isabel. Animal Athletics. ISBN 9781410980908.

––––. Animal Gymnastics. ISBN 9781410980939.

––––. Animal Strength and Combat Sports. ISBN 9781410980915.

––––. Animal Swimming and Diving. ISBN 9781410980922.

ea vol: 32p. (Animalympics). glossary. index. photos. Capstone. 2016. lib. ed. $21.99.

Gr 3-5 –These titles arrive just in time for the swell of interest in all things Olympics. Each selection begins with a brief introduction to the general sport category and then covers five distinct events, including the three animal medal winners for each. Strength and Combat Sports, for example, includes weight lifting, fencing, boxing, archery, and wrestling. Comparing five broad groups of animals—birds, fish, invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians, and mammals—isn’t easy, and the criteria and reasoning used to identify winners are fuzzy at times. A common concluding chapter reminds readers that the animals’ behaviors and body features are adaptations meant for survival, not for competition. Photos work with the text and include labels when needed. Unfortunately, the “Medal Table” sections in Athletics and Strength are seriously flawed, provoking either a tabulation lesson or confusion. VERDICT Though this series has some flaws, the concept is fun and will spur discussion.


Younger readers are the winners this season, but culling the choices won’t be easy. For early readers, ABDO’s “Animals of North America” and “Everyday Animals” and Bearport’s “Weird but Cute” could fill niches. Other early reader series have widely varied treatments, so consider your audience: the game in Cherry Lake’s “Guess What” is fun, but savvy readers may know some answers right from the cover; Children’s Press’s “Strange Animals” includes considerable extra entertaining back matter; and Jump!’s “My First Animal Library” uses anthropomorphisms generously. For the intermediate group, Powerkids’ “North America’s Biggest Beasts” is solid, but be aware of the flaws in Capstone’s “Animalympics” and Powerkids’ “Wild Backyard Animals.” Capstone’s “Backyard Bird Watchers” stands out among the bird books. This series will appeal to a broader age range, and the hands-on activities add value. Each of the four pet series will be fine additions.

Carol S. Surges, formerly at Longfellow Middle School, Wauwatosa, WI

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